by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC
“How do you engage in the actions of your life?” -Caroline Myss
Archetypes are a powerful way to understand ourselves and others. They are symbolic images that represent universal patterns of human behavior. We see them reflected in the stories we tell, the movies we watch, and the people we meet. We see these archetypes show up in our dreams, in stories, and even in the way we interact with others.
To understand our personal archetypes is to gain greater insight into our patterns of behavior and get closer to acknowledging what influences our decisions. It’s a way to discover symbolically what is meaningful and significant in our lives. They can also help us to develop a more accurate self-image. When we understand which archetypes are active in our lives, we can begin to make changes that will bring us closer to our authentic selves.
In Jungian psychology, archetypes are the psychic structures that organize our experience of the world. They are the building blocks of the human psyche, and they play a central role in the formation of our personality. Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology. During his lifetime he developed several theories, the most famous of which is his theory of the collective unconscious. This theory is based on the idea that all humans share certain commonalities in the way they perceive the world. Jung called these shared perceptions archetypes.
When we desire a deeper understanding of ourselves and a phenomenological understanding of our role in the collective world around us, often we learn from observing the patterns that are operating in us. Studying and uncovering our archetypal patterns of behaviors is a way to gain an understanding of what motivates us. Asking questions, such as “what archetype are you engaging in at this moment?” helps to focus on these patterns. Archetypes are about dismantling personal myths as we come closer to common truths. It becomes our work and goal to uncover the myths or beliefs we live by.
Archetypes are like templates that our minds use to make sense of the world. They help us to understand our own behavior, as well as the behavior of others. By exploring archetypes, we uncover our underlying beliefs and assumptions about others while we also reveal our own strengths and insecurities.
The hero, for instance, is the archetype that represents strength, courage, and determination. The hero is often the one who takes on challenges and fights for what they believe in. In another example, the rebel is the archetype of the independent thinker. The rebel stands up for what they believe in, even if it means going against the status quo.
In art therapy, we can explore these archetypes by creating our own archetype cards and recognizing the patterns that we have engaged in and ones that we are deciding to depersonalize and dismantle. Caroline Myss has created an extensive deck of archetype cards that I have linked to at the end of this blog. These archetype cards showcase both the light attributes and shadow attributes of each archetype and allow the person engaging with the cards to explore their personal connection to the various identities. You can use these cards to explore your own connection to the archetypes or create your own working archetype to build greater self understanding.
Link to Caroline Myss’ Archetype Cards cited in this blog post:
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